Sustainable Forests and Coasts Semi-Annual Progress Report: October 2013 – March 2014

The present Semi-Annual Progress Report summarizes implementation of the FY14 annual work plan and the project´s performance against its FY14 targets established in the Performance Monitoring Plan (PMP), which it has met or exceeded in all cases. This is the final progress report since the project ends on June 14th and complements the weekly bullets and monthly newsletters that are submitted to the Contracting Officer’s Representative (COR) as well as information presented in the regular planning and coordination meetings that the COR participates in. Key to the project´s ability to complete the FY14 work plan activities and meet its goals is the MAE´s ownership of project technical assistance, which is also an integral part of its internal work plans and goals.

As in past years, in the FY14 the Project´s implementation strategy focused on reducing the following four main threats to biodiversity conservation in four priority sites along the coast of Ecuador: (1) Loss and/or alteration of critical habitats, (2) Climate change, (3) Lack of economic alternatives, and (4) Insufficient institutional capacity for biodiversity conservation. To this end, the project continued to build local capacity to manage Protected Areas, implement climate change adaptation measures, and manage integrated farms. In addition, the project provided tools for managing protected areas nationwide. It also promoted market access for products that support conservation (such as red crab, which depend on protecting mangroves; tagua, which depends on forest conservation; organic cacao produced using environmentally safe practices; and ecotourism). To improve livelihoods it also continued to help people invest their cash-for-conservation payments received for protecting natural forests under the Ministry of Environment´s (MAE) Socio Bosque Program in income generating activities. Lastly, the project continued to work in close partnership with the MAE and provide technical inputs for managing protected forests and for developing related policies.

To date, the Project has trained 4,838 people, promoted 22 new commercial linkages, and helped communities and families access over $11.6M in cash-for conservation payments for protecting 51,978 hectares ($1.9 million of which were paid out during the life of the project). As a result of project technical assistance, over 16,225 people are benefiting economically and over 744,000 hectares of critical habitats are under improved management. Parallel to this, the Project is strengthening five conservation coalitions that serve as platforms for coordinating natural resource management with local public and private sector, and has leveraged over $17.9 million. For a more detailed summary of results to date please see Section 1.

Especially noteworthy achievements this reporting period include:

  1. Upon invitation from the Uruguayan Ministry of Housing, Territorial Management and Environment, USAID Sustainable Forests and Coasts Protected Area Expert, Richard Vaca, participated in the VI National Protected Area Conference in Montevideo where he shared the project’s experiences developing operational plans for 12 protected areas throughout Ecuador. The conference highlighted the project’s  innovative and practical methodology, which bases planning on the area´s conservation objectives and threats and establishes clear strategies for obtaining and measuring results.
  2. Supported developing the Annual Operational Plan for the Protected Area Unit of the Ministry of Environment´s National Biodiversity Office, as well as proposals for a new institutional structure, a plan how to adapt their current structure, and a protocol for planning, monitoring, and evaluation within their unit.
  3. Based on the Manual for Protected Area Operational Management, developed 13 more operational plans (Cayambe Coca, Llanganates, Chimborazo, Cotacachi Cayapas, El Morro, Limoncocha, Pululahua, Los Illinizas, Cotopaxi, Manglares Churute, El Salado, El Pambilar, and Puntilla Santa Elena) for a total of 25.
  4. Assisted the Churute Mangrove Reserve hold a three day training curse to form a team of community fire fighters that are prepared to prevent and fight forest fires.
  5. Trained MAE staff on monitoring PA POA implementation.
  6. Held a series of technical workshop to gather input on Protected Forest Management with stakeholders from the various regions (Cuenca, Puyo, and Ibarra). Based on the workshops, developed a proposal for improving the related environmental regulations (TULAS – Textos Unificado de Legislación Ambiental Segundario).
  7. Supported the National Fishery Institute (INP) in initiating a research plan for new equipment that the project is purchasing for them.
  8. Supported the INP in preparing a series of technical reports on research results.
  9. Shared experiences and lessons learned with the Socio Bosque Director.
  10. Produced videos on project activities in the Esmeraldas province and on good agricultural practices implemented in Chongon Colonche, which will be available on youtube and displayed during the final event.
  11. Held in-country observational study tour to share experiences and impacts in the Dos Mangas community with other communities in the Chongon Colonche Protected Forest. Leaders from the Dos Mangas community shared results rated to good agricultural practices for caña guadua, tagua, and paja toquilla as well as their experiences and successes resulting from their integrated management plan, which streamlines legal mechanisms for managing non-timber forest products. Th Loma Alta, Sinchal, Dos Mangas, Las Núñez and La Entrada communities participated.
  12. Held event in Guayaquil to share the achievements with crabbers and mangrove conservation as well as with women that extract crab meat.
  13. Began preparations for final event, which will be on May 12th in Guayaquil.
  14. Upon USAID´s request and award of additional funding, expanded procurement and technical assistance to build on achievements to date. To this end, a team of biologists began working with crabbing organizations in the Golf of Guayaquil to develop management plans for applying for six new mangrove concessions. The project also began procurement to provide forest guards and crabbers with materials and equipment for monitoring forest and mangrove conservation and to support income-generating initiatives, such as crab pulp processing, eco-tourism, ivory nut and cap straw.

This semester the project was also audited by the Regional Inspector General, which required the project to prepare documentation requested, host a day-long event to present project activities, plan site visits, and participate in a series of interviews.